The weather has been a mixed and rather cold bag since I last wrote on here. The temperature today though touched double figures, but it’s also rained all day. There are signs that the fish are starting to wake up, in my local rivers at least, so hopefully sport will pick up before we have to abandon the rivers just as they’re reaching peak form.
Speaking of abandoning the rivers as they hit peak form, the EA is looking into the current close season on our rivers and the Angling Times also ran a poll along the same lines. Now I don’t usually do angling politics on here, but I think the current system has had it’s day. ‘Rivers are better than ever’ some people say, but not in my neck of the woods they aren’t. Apart from the River Don, that used to be an open sewer, all my local rivers are dire compared to when I was in my teens. Some are almost sterile and no close season will have any effect on them any time soon.
Here’s a stretch of river that used to produce 2lb+ roach and 4lb+ chub, not to mention the swarms of gudgeon that swam over the gravels in their hundreds.
Yes there is a river under that lot! Cormorants took most of the fish, and over abstraction, probably linked to over population, have since rendered it almost invisible.
A bit further downstream it looks more like it used to when I started fishing.
Some evenings, when the big roach used to roll here, you had to shout to make yourself heard! Now the river here is empty and abandoned by the EA. There’s no need for a close season here, in fact it may as well be turned into a road.
The tiny rivers where I learned to fish, The Torne, Idle, Mother Drain and Ryton all teemed with fish. All but the Ryton were famous round these parts for their big roach, not to mention all the other fish that meant you could catch from almost anywhere. The Ryton held a lot of large dace, and big chub for the time, up to and over 5lbs. Again, the cormorants soon polished those smaller fish off.
All of the above rivers do still hold some fish, but a tiny fraction compared to my youth, and it’s a heck of a job to find them. I’d say that there is about 2-5% of the fish populations of old in these 4 rivers at the very most. That’s not me trying to over sensationalise things, but the truth. All the rivers are crystal clear so it’s not hard to make this number up and see how empty they are.
Looking at some of my results on these rivers, you’d wonder why I’m moaning. All contain numbers of chub over 4lbs up to well over 5lbs, which I’ve caught, as well as some lumpy perch to over 3lbs. The roach still remain, and considering Martin and I have caught around 30 x 2lb+ roach in a couple of years you’d think it was heaven. However, that is not the case. Those roach have been caught from 13 areas, or swims, over many miles of rivers. Once there was many huge shoals of roach from ounces right up to fish beyond our wildest dreams. There is just a fraction of those numbers still hanging on. The chub will be in shoals sometimes over a mile apart. There are no gudgeon or the many shoals of fish such as perch and dace that once filled the gaps in between. In fact I’ll make this bold statement. If the young Mike Townsend was playing down his local woods today, peering off the bridge into the river, he wouldn’t have begged his dad to buy him some fishing tackle for Christmas. Those roach and gudgeon I used to stare at for hours captivated me, but they’re not there now, so I doubt I’d have ended up being an angler.
Anyway, on to the original point, there’s just no need for a close season round here on my rivers. On those rivers that have larger fish populations, I’m sure a mid April till mid July close season would suit the fish far better. And if the EA really cared about fish and the environment, it would stop over abstraction that has choked what bit of life remained in my locals, then at least they might have a chance to recover. In a time when every news agency jumps on bandwagons such as the ‘plastic pollution’ one, they turn a blind eye to the very thing that is effecting our environment more than anything, the mis use and over demand for the nectar that supplies the planet with life, water!
Right, that’s politics done with, now for some fishing.
The temperature was still hovering just above freezing when I tackled my local river for roach. The colour and levels of the river looked good after some rain, but it was cold rain so I was unsure how things would go.
Trotting maggots under a stick float bought a few bites from some roach with the day brightened up by a 1lb 6oz roach. It was more than welcome in such conditions.
After a couple of trips where I struggled, the air temperature suddenly headed to almost double figures! I walked up and down the banks feeding various spots, and soon spotted some shadowy shapes moving tight to some cover. I was pretty certain some were chub, but some smaller shapes were ‘big roach size’ so I concentrated on this particular area. I fed maggots into the swim for around 30 minutes prior to casting in. On my first trot through, the float buried and I thought I’d hooked the bottom, but then the bottom nodded! It turned out to be a chub, and a decent one at that for this area, it weighed 5lbs 4oz
I also added chub of 4lb 4oz and 4lb 11oz. They gave my light trotting gear a real good workout.
I then hooked into something that felt like a big roach, but I couldn’t see any silver flashes through the slightly coloured water. It turned out to be a perch, full of defiance to the very end, bristling with anger that I’d disturbed it. It wasn’t a big fish, around a pound and a half or so
As dusk was starting to set, I got into an almighty birds nest after pulling out of another fish, probably a chub, so I tackled down and vowed to return the next day.
After a few delays in the morning, I returned to the banks early in the afternoon. It was 9 degrees now, and we’d not had an overnight frost. I set about feeding a few swims again and it was now a lot easier to see fish as the colour was dropping out by the minute. In one I could see a couple of big roach, but they were flanked by their chub bodyguards. After feeding maggots for a while, all the fish were really hunting out the bait. With the fish so active, I headed to the spot where Martin and I have had a lot of good roach since the end of November.
It’s slightly deeper and steadier here so I kicked off on the stick and maggots again. A couple of chunky 6oz fish came early followed by a real old warrior of 1lb 8oz. I don’t know if this fish bears the marks of an earlier pike attack, when there was a real menace causing havoc in early winter, or if its the goosanders again. It could possibly be some disease, as a lot of fish have ragged, split or worn tail fins. Some might say it’s keepnets, but when Martin and I find these roach, we’re usually the first to catch them and they’re already tatty and battered. Plus, they’re only in the net for a couple of hours at the most.
The fish was also covered in leeches, suggesting the larger fish may have been laying dormant in the cold water. I quickly removed them all before placing her in the net.
After the early roach, I then hooked and landed a couple more 4lb+ chub. They’re not usually caught around these swims, but I think it proves they’re getting really active and hungry now.
The swim went quiet following the commotion, but as dusk lowered the light levels, the roach switched back on. Amongst the 4 -8oz fish, a few more better samples were landed, 1lb, 1lb 6oz, and 1lb 11oz roach made it a good day and one to get me excited that I may have an end of season bonanza.
When I got home and put the photos onto my pc, my enthusiasm was tempered a touch. The 1.11 and the 1.6 were the last decent roach I’d caught over the last 6 weeks in previous trips. After seeing a couple of shoals in this area in clear water, totalling around 20 or more big roach, I’d have though the chances were slim of those 2 fish being caught again before any others. Time will tell whether the others have moved on or fallen the victims to predators, but for now it’s time to rest the roach until the weather warms or the season is about to end…….which brings me back to where I started!